In addition to the physical and emotional toll, facing a cancer diagnosis can be financially overwhelming. That’s why the American Cancer Society's St. Louis office offers Hope Lodge, a 45-suite residence open to any cancer patient traveling to St. Louis for treatment. The free accommodations provide a respite for patients, who can take advantage of support from staff and volunteers, and interact with others also undergoing treatment.
Next year, Hope Lodge will receive a major facelift to be funded in part by the Society's Cattle Baron’s Ball. Guests can don their cowboy hats and boots for the western-themed gala, set for Aug. 17 at Queeny Park in Ballwin. Complete with a buffet dinner provided by Butler’s Pantry, live music from country music group Borderline, casino and carnival games, and live and silent auctions, it will be a night to kick back and have fun, says Pam Krekeler, who is co-chairing the event, along with Richelle Weisbrod.
In addition to Hope Lodge, the Society offers a wide range of local programs and supports a multitude of cancer research projects. “In St. Louis, even though our money first goes to the American Cancer Society's national office, we actually get more than 100 percent back in our city because we help fund so many research grants and patient programs,” Krekeler explains. At Washington University School of Medicine, there are 12 cancer research projects in the works, as well as two additional studies at Saint Louis University School of Medicine—all supported by a total of $6.5 million in grant money from the Society's local office.
Weisbrod knows firsthand how vital the Society is for cancer patients and their families. She received a breast cancer diagnosis shortly before Christmas in 2011. “When the room begins to fill with more people and new machines, you know that you are about to become a statistic. I was afraid and I was in denial,” she recalls.
But the Society was there for her with three crucial needs: tools to fight the cancer, resources for emotional support and hope for the future. Through the Society's patient navigator program, Weisbrod was able to organize her cancer journey by keeping all of her medical information, such as treatment schedules, prescriptions and insurance, in one convenient file folder that went with her to every appointment. Emotionally, the Society’s Look Good Feel Better program helped Weisbrod choose a wig and learn how to apply makeup after losing her eyebrows and eyelashes, as well as provided her with a nutritionist, exercise routines and support groups.
“Many went before and many will go after me, but all of us collectively are engaged in the fight to beat cancer,” Weisbrod says. “I got involved (with the Society) in order to ‘pay it forward’ and help raise money for an organization that was there for me in the moment when it mattered most.”
To support these critical programs, the Society's St. Louis office raises $5 million annually, and has a fundraising goal of $200,000 for the inaugural Cattle Baron’s Ball, Krekeler says. The event, which began 40 years ago in Dallas, annually brings in $12 million from host cities throughout the nation. And Krekeler hopes St. Louis can add to those numbers, because more money means better outcomes for cancer patients. “We have come so far with cancer treatment and prevention, and I believe that someday we really can find a cure.”
ON THE COVER: Cancer remains the No. 1 cause of death worldwide, but the American Cancer Society's St. Louis office is fighting back with its inaugural Cattle Baron’s Ball, to be held Aug. 17 at Queeny Park in Ballwin. For more information, call 286-8159 or visit stlcattlebaronsball.org.